In light of the fact that ISIS will be wiped out by the end of 2017 in Syria and Iraq – as confirmed by Vladimir Shamanov, former Russian Airborne Force commander and Chairman of the State Duma’s defense committee – the Middle East will enter a critical phase as it will come under international attention, which will have a huge impact on contemporary international politics and the existing global order.
The US and Russia have been holding secret talks regarding the future of Syria since 2015 over the question of the dispensation in that country during the transitional phase – questions relating to the country’s president, the governing body as well as other matters.
Draft constitution for Syria
There seems to be an agreement that the president and transitional governing body shall exercise executive authority on behalf of the people, but in line with a constitutional framework. As for the president, he may have one or more vice presidents and may delegate some of his powers to them. This draft will be proposed at the Geneva Conference to be held by the end of November.
As for the transitional governing body, it shall be the supreme authority in the country during the transitional phase. It comprises of 30 members: 10 appointed by the government, 10 from independent individuals named by the UN secretary general and 10 by the opposition.
The chairman will be elected from among the independent members by simple majority. This explains why officials from the European Union, Russia and the United States recently visited Damascus.
According to US sources, the most important provision of the new constitution would be Article 49 (1): “The President of the Syrian Republic shall be elected for seven calendar years by Syrian citizens in general after free and integral elections. The president might be re-elected only for another term”.
The sources added that as per the draft constitution: “No person has the right to run for presidency in Syria unless he is 40 years of age and has Syrian citizenship. This means that the phrases which reads ‘the candidate is of Syrian parents by birth’ or ‘is not married to a non-Syrian’,” have been amended.
This goes in line with what former US ambassador to Syria Robert S. Ford stressed in an article published at the Foreign Affairs that the “Syrian civil war has entered a new phase. President Bashar al-Assad’s government has consolidated its grip on western half of the country, and in the east.
By now, hopes of getting rid of Assad or securing a reformed government are far-fetched fantasies, and so support for anti-government factions should be off the table. The Syrian government is determined to take back the entire country and will probably succeed in doing so.”
Geostrategic and pivotal states
Earlier, ISIS was given one last chance to leave central Syria before the Syrian Army closed the 5 kilometer gap between Al-Raqqa and Homs governorates last month. Last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that Syrian government forces, supported by the Russian Air Force, had liberated over 90 percent of the country’s territory.
The question is what comes after the end of ISIS in Syria and Iraq? It is known that major political trends in the Middle East emerge because of conflicts by geopolitical pivots against regional powers known as “geostrategic players”.
In his book The Grand Chessboard, Zbigniew Brzezinski stated, “Geopolitical pivots are the states whose importance is derived not from their power and motivation but rather from their sensitive location… which in some cases gives them a special role in either defining access to important areas or in denying resources to a significant player”.
In the words of Paul Kennedy these states have a “location that determines the fate and future of the territory and the stability of the world”.
Accordingly, the concept points to the inevitability of conflict in the Middle East between players representing geostrategic states, “countries that aspire to hegemony and power” having a nationalist orientation, ideological outlook, religious message or economic objectives aimed at gaining regional control or global prestige.
Some of these states in the region are also called pivotal states as they become “major regional powers with pivotal geographies”, with keys to access and authority in the region. Such conflicts are prone to drawn in a heterogeneous mix of players.
In other words, countries that represent such geostrategic players aspire to change the geopolitical situation without entering conflicts to the extent that it improves their strategic position and enables them to gain bargaining chips in the region to secure their multifarious goals and ambitions through the use of political, economic, military and soft power.
This leads to the phenomenon of proxy wars such as in Iraq, in Syria, in Lebanon, in North Africa and in south of the Arabian Peninsula — as any prospective economic and political power cannot achieve its goals without having full control of the Bab Al Mandeb Strait, which is not just a strategic chokepoint between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean but also a gateway to Africa which is rich in natural resources.
Such changes are triggered by random political events such as military coups, mass protests, continuous wars, economic crises and the weakening of central government control. Often pivotal or key regional players refuse to follow the diktats of big players.
In other words, ‘geostrategic’ states emerge from the crucible of the global system, which is controlled by the world’s major powers such as the United States and Russia as well as pivotal states in the region. Such regional powers are motivated by thoughts of protecting and securing their own national interests and security concerns, thereby refusing to give a carte blanche to major world powers.
Thus, the policies and agendas of various players are thwarted through the intervention of countries of the region in the affairs of the other by means of various soft or hard power options. These options include military and intelligence interventions, the export of revolutions, economic warfare and fomenting chaos aimed at influencing areas close to the rivals borders.
Shehab Al-Makahleh is Director of Geostrategic Media Center, senior media and political analyst in the Middle East, adviser to many international consultancies. He can be reached at: @shehabmakahleh and @Geostrat_ME.